The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

August 2023: Glimmers

Posted on Aug 29, 2023

August 2023: Glimmers

The month of August has been like riding a Tilt-A-Whirl at the amusement park. Exhilarating, terrifying, disorienting, frustrating, fulfilling, confusing, rewarding, depressing, satisfying. You name it, I felt it. The whole gamut of emotions. No wonder I feel worn out. And now I ask myself, where does this leave me on my healing journey?  I think I’ve made progress. Deep internal wounds have been opened, but so too, opportunity for healing. Clarity did emerge out of the confusion. Fulfillment out of the frustration. Glimmers amongst the triggers.

New concept that crept into my social media feed: Have you hear about glimmers? They are the opposite of triggers. A glimmer is a tiny micro-moment of happiness; a sign of hope. One you begin to look for them, they will start to appear everywhere. And appear they did. But first I had to make the discovery of an underlying core belief that came flying forward on my Tilt-a-Whirl ride.

The month began with a heaviness that I just couldn’t shake. Early morning musings revealed a sense of being judged and found wanting. Disappointment in me, my dogs, my work, my preferences, my choices, my actions. Pressure to perform. Pressure to make others happy, meet the needs of others. But it was the word judged that really resonated—which translates in my brain into not good enough and that pervading sense of shame. Fear of disappointing others is a heavy burden to bear.

I think it was a sense of judgement from several sources that triggered this trauma-like response. Still that dang need for external validation to counterbalance the shame and judgement. As I was processing what I needed in order to heal this deep wounding, the image of dad with us two kids at mom’s graveside came to mind. Watching her casket being lowered into the ground. I think that impacted me more than I’ve given it credit. I left for the morning walk mulling this over…

Realizations surfaced one on top of another. The first was that dad was supposed to “be there” for me—his little girl, when her mom died—not the other way around. Dad was supposed to help with the confusion and sadness and shame; but he didn’t—and sadly the pattern continues to this day, unless I set boundaries.

The next realization was that no one has ever shown up for me. People I thought were my allies turned out to have ulterior motives—and only saw me through the lens of my birth mother or as a problem child. No one was there for that frightened, confused little girl—and later, adolescent and young woman. I feel compelled to gaslight myself and say it wasn’t that bad/actually like that, etc. But the more I sit with it—my lived experience—there really wasn’t anybody “there” for me. Not in ways that I desperately needed.

That’s when I realized I was a huge disappointment for simply existing. People wanted my birth mother, not me. And people did NOT want to be reminded of their loss every time they looked at me. Supposedly, my loss of a mother paled in comparison to their own sense of loss. That hurts to the core. Now I understand why I felt unwanted wherever I went. I was a symbol of what had once been—not what I was or could become. Didn’t matter that my birth mother was unwell—that was her shame which was literally and figuratively passed onto me.

All those thoughts and feelings I was told to deny were really true. And the sense that I wasn’t good enough was repeatedly reinforced in school, church, college, peers, marriage, in-laws. I could never shake it. How does one heal that sense of insufficiency? How do I complete the trauma response? I understand that little girl cannot be abandoned by her mother and father ever again. Or by the myriad of adults who failed her. I sense there is something unfinished in recognizing dad’s failure. Dad can’t abandon his little girl ever again—but he has repeatedly done so through every stage of life. It’s hard to heal a wound that keeps getting reopened.

However, maybe I can complete the trauma response to the belief of being a disappointment for simply existing. That one, too, is tough because I remind so many people of the wife, sister, aunt, friend, other mother, and their own loss and pain. A belief that spirals into: I am a scourge upon the planet. I perpetually remind people of someone I am not.

And once again, it was a social media meme that gave me pause: It’s not who you are that holds you back; it’s who you think you’re not. However, I had to apply it differently than intended; namely that I am not my birth mother even if our lives and personalities have run parallel to each other. What’s holding me back is a significant sense of “not-ness.” People are equal parts relieved and disappointed that I am not my birth mother. I have never known who I am because I have never been given the gift of being my own person.

In my journal I was able to itemize my “not-ness” from the obvious to the subtle, the general to the specific— such as, I am not: my birth mother, a symbol of all that could’ve been, a representation of betrayal, a scourge, a complete and utter disappointment, a perpetual existential crisis, just to name a few. I might remain a disappointment to others as a symbol of their regret; but it is NOT my disappointment nor my regret.

I need to find a way to shed all that not-ness and walk into the brilliance of my own beauty and grace and light. I am a work-in-progress with my own healing journey to traverse. I am not the be all/end all for everyone else and their pain. In my journal, I also listed what I am including: imperfect and make adjustments as needed, a spiritual being having a much-flawed human experience, a person with legitimate needs and concerns. A few “nots” filtered through; but they were validating: I am NOT a dutiful daughter, nor a drama queen, nor a performer of any kind. I am my own person, loved and lovable as well as seen and heard by a few, dismissed and neglected by many. I simply am. I exist. Embraced in grace.

My compulsive need for external validation of my existence makes much more sense now that I’ve delved so deeply into the wound. The wound is still raw; and I remain susceptible to craving external validation. Time to cherish my Self which doesn’t mean unlimited self-indulgence, but nurturing my well-being. My existence IS valid simply because I live and breathe. I could be a forest nymph that never encounters another soul and still be “valid.” It is my choice to make something of my life—no one else can deem that valid or not. No other human being can validate my self-perception or unique existence. The proverbial “they” can enhance or hinder my lived experience; but they are not a parking authority validating the space I use.

As I look back, how did I survive? Nothing short of divine intervention—even if it didn’t come when or how I expected. My life has had a trajectory to follow for it to be truly meaningful. So many lessons learned that had to build upon each other. Always sprinkled with those glimmers of grace and hope. They appear more frequently now; or at least, I see/recognize them more.

Dealing with the triggered core belief of being a disappointment for existing created an opportunity for a glimmer to appear: a sign of hope. Seeing myself as all the things I wasn’t will hopefully free me to be all that I am, delving into deeper being (inspired by Madeleine L’Engle’s words: “…the Maker of the Universe who has Named us into being is there, waiting for us, calling us into deeper being.”). I have felt more alive these past few days then ever before. Now that’s saying something. I had to bear (& bare) the burden of heaviness so that I could set it down and walk away from it. As I tell my clients, you have to hold it to let it go.

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